Abu Dhabi is hosting a global competition with a prize pot of more than $3 million to challenge innovators from all over the world to design autonomous drone systems for maritime safety and security.
Scheduled to be held in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates in June 2023, the Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC) will require a swarm of autonomous drones to identify a target vessel from several similar vessels in open waters in a GNSS-denied environment.
Competitors will be able to use between five and 20 drones to survey a defined area, which will have fewer than 10 boats, to identify one or more rogue vessels. To help identify the bad actor(s), partial or unclear images of the vessel(s) will be provided to the competitors, possibly from various angles.
In the second part of the challenge, competitors will be required to offload specific items from the target vessel onto an uncrewed surface vehicle in the shortest possible time using autonomous technologies, such as a robotic arm.
MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge aims to bring together international universities, research institutions, companies, and individual innovators alike to find practical solutions to maritime challenges such as illegal fishing, piracy, smuggling, and human trafficking.
The robotics competition is being organized by ASPIRE, the dedicated technology program management pillar of the Advanced Technology Research Council (ATRC), which is the overarching advanced technology research body in Abu Dhabi. Call for registrations is now open.
As Dr. Arthur Morrish, chief executive of ASPIRE, points out:
For countries with long coastlines, ensuring maritime safety requires significant investment in sophisticated equipment and highly trained personnel. Using advanced robotic systems can not only help reduce costs, but also handle some of the dangerous tasks performed by humans. The motivation for holding the MBZIRC Maritime Grand Challenge is to take the technology out of the laboratory and test it in a real-world environment to see what is possible.
Morrish adds that this smart system will have practical application in other areas as well, especially as it can perform complex tasks of autonomous intervention in a GNSS-denied environment.
The team winning the first prize will take home $2 million. The team placed second will receive $500,000, while the team bagging the third prize will win $250,000. A special cash award of $500,000 will also be awarded to all teams progressing to the demonstration phase. This amount is to be split among the teams.
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